Armoured Dwarven Gish - Full arcane casting, Heavy Armour (3.5e Optimized Character Build)

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Introduction[edit]

Goals of the build[edit]

  • Runesmith
  • Gish benchmark (4 attacks / 9th level spells at level 20)
  • No lost spell levels until level 9 spells are reached

I really like playing gish (fighter-wizard) characters, but most builds in 3.5 such as the classic Fighter 1 / Wizard x, or the Sorcadin (Paladin 2 / Sorcerer x) forces you to get your spells later than a pure wizard. Even a pure sorcerer forces you to have a one level delay. And in my experience, even one level of delay hurts a lot. At the later levels it should hurt lest, but still, having access to the spell as soon as possible does give a bit more sense of power.

Also I love the idea of casting arcane spells while being fully armoured with a weapon in hand.

So I set out to fulfil the dwarven gish build without losing out on spellcasting, and succeeded. Behold:

Flavour[edit]

If played in Faerûn, the character could be a Gold Dwarf having left the Great Rift after the Thunder blessing. Having journeyed to Calimshan, he joined the Seminarcane in hopes of becoming a Sorcerer or a Wizard, and surprised all, especially himself, when he stumbled upon the path of the Sha'ir. To tie together the background and the class, I would suggest to worship Tharmekhûl and on working to involve as much of a fire theme as possible: A fire gen, fire spells whenever possible.

As he learns the tricks of his trade, the stone and sand themselves call out to him. He gets closer to his inner stone nature, and learns to cast stronger spells in the mountains (Geomancer class levels).
However, during his advancement, he has a constant nudge in the back of his mind to become like the heroes of his childhood dreams: a Great Rift Deep Defender. The class isn't for him, but to emulate it he seeks out a number of ways. First he learns to fight against the starkest foes of any humanoid, dragon-kind, but upon learning of his own draconic blood, he decides to leave those fanatics.
In the following years he learns to parallelly strengthen his arcane and martial might, both by the occult schools of the land, and the rune based secrets of his race.

And after a while he becomes what he just dreamt of: Appearing like a Defender, maybe even fighting alongside them. While being among the mightiest spellcasters, way beyond the capabilities of a mere wizard.

References[edit]

In order of appearance in the build:

Race

Class

Feats

Game Rule Components[edit]

Race[edit]

Draconic Gold Dwarf or some other Dwarven options, see Variants

Table: Starting Attributes
32 pts buy

Attribute Unmodified Modified Bonus
Strength 12 14 +2
Dexterity 15 13 +1
Constitution 12 16 +3
Intelligence 14 14 +2
Wisdom 8 8 -1
Charisma 16 18 +4

Intelligence has to be at least 14, dexterity at least 13 for the build to work. For the remaining attributes, Charisma is the most important, then the gish stats of Constitution and Strength. Wisdom is there to be dumped.

From the racial traits, the ones we will be building upon are:

  • Armoured Movement
  • Weapon Familiarity

The template causes a +1 LA which should be bought back by level 3.

Progression[edit]

In the end, you will be a Sha'ir 4 / Geomancer 4 / Dragonslayer 1 / Runesmith 2 / Abjurant champion 5 / Spell Sword 4. However, there are two ways to reach that goal, as follows:

"Core" - with no free feat tricks[edit]

ECL Class level BAB Saving Throws Feats Class
Features
AC Base Spells per Day
Fort Ref Will 0 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st Sha'ir 1 +0 +0 +0 +2 Academy graduate (Diplomacy,
Knowledge (Nature) & (Nobility))
Summon Gen familiar 20 4 2
2nd Sha'ir 2 +1 +0 +0 +3 20 5 3
3rd Sha'ir 3 +1 +1 +1 +3 Dodge Recognize genie works 20 5 3 1
4th Sha'ir 4 +2 +1 +1 +4 20 5 4 3
5th Geomancer 1 +2 +3 +1 +6 Drift 1, Spell versatility 0 20 5 4 3 1
6th Geomancer 2 +3 +4 +1 +7 Iron will Drift 1, Spell versatility 1 20 5 4 4 3
7th Geomancer 3 +4 +4 +2 +7 Drift 2, Spell versatility 2 20 5 5 4 3 1
8th Geomancer 4 +5 +5 +2 +8 Drift 2, Spell versatility 3 20 5 5 4 4 3
9th Dragon Slayer 1 +6/+1 +7 +2 +10 Combat Casting Aura of Courage, Damage Bonus,
Proficiency with Weapons & Armours
20 5 5 5 4 3 1
10th Abjurant Champion 1 +7/+2 +7 +2 +12 Abjurant Armour, extended abjuration 21 5 5 5 4 4 3
11th Abjurant Champion 2 +8/+3 +7 +2 +13 Swift abjuration 22 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
12th Abjurant Champion 3 +9/+4 +8 +3 +13 Scribe Scroll 23 5 5 5 5 4 4 3
13th Runesmith 1 +9/+4 +10 +3 +15 Rune Magic 37 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
14th Abjurant Champion 4 +10/+5 +10 +3 +16 Arcane boost 41 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3
15th Abjurant Champion 5 +11/+6/+1 +10 +3 +16 Arcane Strike Martial Arcanist 45 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
16th Runesmith 2 +12/+7/+2 +11 +3 +17 Stonecraft expertise 49 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3
17th Spell Sword 1 +13/+8/+3 +13 +3 +19 Ignore ASF 10% 49 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
18th Spell Sword 2 +14/+9/+4 +14 +3 +20 Practiced Spellcaster
Extend Spell
49 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
19th Spell Sword 3 +15/+10/+5 +14 +4 +20 Ignore ASF 15% 49 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3
20th Spell Sword 4 +16/+11/+6/+1 +15 +4 +21 Channel spell 3/day 49 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3

"Fury of Tharmekhûl" - with free feat shenanigans[edit]

ECL Class level BAB Saving Throws Feats Class
Features
AC Base Spells per Day
Fort Ref Will 0 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st Sha'ir 1 +0 +0 +0 +2 Academy graduate (Diplomacy,
Knowledge (Nature) & (Religion))
Dodge, Innattentive
Combat Casting, Shaky
Summon Gen familiar 20 4 2
2nd Sha'ir 2 +1 +0 +0 +3 20 5 3
3rd Sha'ir 3 +1 +1 +1 +3 Arcane Mastery Recognize genie works 20 5 3 1
4th Sha'ir 4 +2 +1 +1 +4 20 5 4 3
5th Geomancer 1 +2 +3 +1 +6 Drift 1, Spell versatility 0 20 5 4 3 1
6th Geomancer 2 +3 +4 +1 +7 Extend spell Drift 1, Spell versatility 1 20 5 4 4 3
7th Geomancer 3 +4 +4 +2 +7 Drift 2, Spell versatility 2 20 5 5 4 3 1
8th Geomancer 4 +5 +5 +2 +8 Iron Will*, Scribe Scroll* Drift 2, Spell versatility 3 20 5 5 4 4 3
9th Dragon Slayer 1 +6/+1 +7 +2 +10 Dwarven Armour Proficiency Aura of Courage, Damage Bonus,
Proficiency with Weapons & Armours
20 5 5 5 4 3 1
10th Runesmith 1 +6/+1 +9 +2 +12 Rune Magic 20 5 5 5 4 4 3
11th Abjurant Champion 1 +7/+2 +9 +2 +14 Abjurant Armour, extended abjuration 31 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
12th Abjurant Champion 2 +8/+3 +9 +2 +15 Arcane Strike Swift abjuration 35 5 5 5 5 4 4 3
13th Abjurant Champion 3 +9/+4 +10 +3 +15 38 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
14th Abjurant Champion 4 +10/+5 +10 +3 +16 Arcane boost 42 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3
15th Abjurant Champion 5 +11/+6/+1 +10 +3 +16 Heavy Armour Optimisation Martial Arcanist 47 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
16th Runesmith 2 +12/+7/+2 +11 +3 +17 Stonecraft expertise 51 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3
17th Spell Sword 1 +13/+8/+3 +13 +3 +19 Ignore ASF 10% 51 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
18th Spell Sword 2 +14/+9/+4 +14 +3 +20 Practiced Spellcaster, Greater
Heavy Armour Optimisation
52 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1
19th Spell Sword 3 +15/+10/+5 +14 +4 +20 Ignore ASF 15% 52 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3
20th Spell Sword 4 +16/+11/+6/+1 +15 +4 +21 Channel spell 3/day 52 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3


Free feats

  • At level 1, the build recieves the two extra feats from two flaws.
  • Ironwill can be gained from Otyugh Hole for 3000 gp.
  • Scribe scroll can be gained from the Herewards Hall adaption, or from a Domain Draught: Rune Domain for one day. You won't be scribing runes... your Gen will.

Skills[edit]

Though this build has 4-6 skill points per level and a number of skills to spend on, it is nowhere near a skill monkey. The skill fall generally in three categories:

Skills needed for magic

  • Diplomacy - You need this to cast spells. Always have it at the rank required to reach all spells (even divine ones) with a take 10 if possible.
  • Concentration - You are a melee caster. Max it.
  • Spellcraft - It is possibly more important to you than to other casters: you almost learn spells if you succeed.

Skills needed for prestige classes

  • Concentration - 5 ranks for Runesmith
  • Craft (Stoneworking) - 8 ranks for Runesmith
  • Knowledge (Arcana) - 6 ranks for Geomancer
  • Knowledge (Nature) - 6 ranks for Geomancer
  • Tumble - 2 ranks for Dragon Slayer

I have bolded these below

Skills needed to buff Diplomacy

  • Bluff
  • Knowledge (Nobility)
  • Sense Motive

These are necessary for synergy to quickly reach the take 10 limit for divine spells of the maximum level you can cast.
I have bolded these below

"Core"[edit]

ECL Class level Bluff Concen-
tration
Craft Diplomacy Knowledge Spellcraft Tumble
Arcana Nature Nobility
1st Sha'ir 1 4 1 4 4 3
2nd Sha'ir 2 5 2 5 5
3rd Sha'ir 3 6 3
4th Sha'ir 4 6 6
5th Geomancer 1 8 4
6th Geomancer 2 3 3 9 5
7th Geomancer 3 5 6 10
8th Geomancer 4 8 2
9th Dragon Slayer 1 11 5
10th Abjurant Champion 1 6 6
11th Abjurant Champion 2 8 8
12th Abjurant Champion 3 10 10
13th Runesmith 1 11 13 11
14th Abjurant Champion 4 13 13
15th Abjurant Champion 5 14 15 14
16th Runesmith 2 16 16
17th Spell Sword 1 18 16 17
18th Spell Sword 2 20 19
19th Spell Sword 3 22 21
20th Spell Sword 4 23 23

"Fury of Tharmekhûl"[edit]

ECL Class level Bluff Concen-
tration
Craft Diplomacy Knowledge Sense
Motive
Spellcraft Tumble
Arcana Nature Religion
1st Sha'ir 1 4 4 4 3 1
2nd Sha'ir 2 5 5 5
3rd Sha'ir 3 6 3
4th Sha'ir 4 5 6
5th Geomancer 1 8 4
6th Geomancer 2 5 5
7th Geomancer 3 2 2
8th Geomancer 4 8
9th Dragon Slayer 1 9 5
10th Runesmith 1 9
11th Abjurant Champion 1 10 11 6
12th Abjurant Champion 2 12 8
13th Abjurant Champion 3 14
14th Abjurant Champion 4 16 10
15th Abjurant Champion 5 18
16th Runesmith 2 19 13
17th Spell Sword 1 20 15
18th Spell Sword 2 21 18
19th Spell Sword 3 22 21
20th Spell Sword 4 23 23

Knowledge (Religion) was chosen for level 21. See details in the Epic Levels section.

Drifts[edit]

  1. Flowers wilt at your touch (you are dwarf and fire incarnate after all)
  2. Leopard spots appear on your body (the least meh option. Nothing a bit of creative tatoo art can't solve)
  3. You become as comely as a dryad (+4 on Diplomacy) (And now all your divine spells are available on a take 10!)
  4. You are now swift as an elk (+5 feet land speed) (What is that little ball of steel rushing towards us faster than the barbarians and flicking fireballs? - base speed of 25 in heavy armour. Combine with the Quick Trait for even more giggles.)

Items[edit]

In the AC column I assumed that the character is saving up and then spending every penny for AC. The gold I based this on is the guidance for character wealth in DMG. The items the character receives are:

  • Oerthblood Starmetal Dwarvencraft Dwarven Battleplate with Ysgardian Heartwire +0 → +5
  • Oerthblood Starmetal Dwarvencraft Dwarven Waraxe of Defense +1 → +5
  • Ring of Protection +1 → +5
  • Amulet of Natural Armour +1 → +5

If only the Core build is used, the Battleplate must be changed to full plate. Just 3 points of armour in the end, but thematically hurts.

The AC reflects the price availability of these items, starting with the Plate, and continuing with the cheapest way to add +1 at any moment.

ECL Armour Ring Amulet Weapon Total
AC Gold Value
11th Oerthblood Starmetal Dwarvencraft Dwarven Battleplate with Ysgardian Heartwire +3 Ring of Protection +1 Amulet of Natural Armour +1 14 62 300
12th Oerthblood Starmetal Dwarvencraft Dwarven Battleplate with Ysgardian Heartwire +4 Ring of Protection +2 Amulet of Natural Armour +2 17 81 300
13th Oerthblood Starmetal Dwarvencraft Dwarven Battleplate with Ysgardian Heartwire +5 Amulet of Natural Armour +3 19 100 300
14th Ring of Protection +4 Amulet of Natural Armour +4 21 138 300
15th Ring of Protection +5 Amulet of Natural Armour +5 Oerthblood Starmetal Dwarvencraft Dwarven Waraxe of Defense +1 25 193 630
16th Oerthblood Starmetal Dwarvencraft Dwarven Waraxe of Defense +5 29 257 630

Variants[edit]

Race

Outside of Faerûn, use Dream Dwarf or Desert Dwarf instead of Gold Dwarf.

Or any dwarven race without negative modifier to charisma is fine.

Classes

Sadly, there's very little option for slightly modifying the build. The best you could do, is give up Spellsword 2-4 for Eldritch Knight 1-3. You would gain an extra level 7th and 9th spell per day, but lose spell channeling. I don't feel it's worth it.

Gish base[edit]

The first 9 levels of the build is an astonishing Arcane Gish Chassis.

Sha'ir 4 / Geomancer 4 / Dragon Slayer 1 gets you by level 9 a BAB of 6, proficiency in all simple and martial weapons, all armour, shields, even tower shields, without losing spell levels compared to a specialist wizard, while giving access to all sorcerer or wizard spells and 9 domains of divine spells. Cast with your charisma.

Any classic gish build can be improved upon by this chassis.

Epic Levels[edit]

With our 16 BAB / four attacks reached, we can finally focus on more important stuff then number of attacks.

At level 21 with the Fury of Tharmekhûl build, you could grab Geomancer, spend 4 points onto Knowledge Religion and obtain the feat Arcane Disciple (War). This is thematically very fitting, and would allow you to cast Divine Power, possibly even using your charisma, however RAW isn't that clear on this. And there's not much point to it at this level anyhow.

After that, I would just finish off first the Runesmith levels for the capstone ability and daily 2 uses of limited wish for no XP. Then head of the weird route of the geomancer and collect all the drifts. In the end you would have eyes like owl, eyes like eagle, have a boars ferocity, could pounce like a leopard, move like a cheetah and be graceful as a pixie. Without any further horrible visible alterations.

And for level 30, finish it off with Spell sword.

Highlights[edit]

To be honest, the best thing about the build is playing a Sha'ir.

  • Do you want to be a prepared arcane caster? Sure.
  • Do you want to change your spells during the day? Sure.
  • Do you want to have access to all arcane spells? Sure.
  • Do you want to have the number of spells per day as a specialist wizard? Sure.
  • Do you want to have access to divine spells? Well, we can get 9 domains for you.

Go read the handbook.

Play style[edit]

In the first half of the build, a quasi-prepared pure caster, from the second half you are a rushing metal bulwark of arcane death without losing a single caster level before level 9 spells.

In the beginning you have some fun tricks beyond a wizard. Later your trusty dwarven waraxe in one hand, runes in the other, and a shield spell protecting you even beyond your beloved plate.

Weaknesses[edit]

Well, that reflex save will hurt. And you don't have touch AC to speak of.


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